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Grow Your Own Truffles

Grow Your Own Truffles

by catherine ~ 4 April, 2008 ~ 101 comments

Usually one thinks of collecting truffles as a solitary activity carried out in secrecy at dead of night. However it is now possible to buy trees already inoculated with truffle spores.  Read more...

Mistletoe – The Golden Bough

Mistletoe – The Golden Bough

by Jade ~ 13 December, 2007 ~ one comment

Mistletoe, also known as “the golden bough”, is well known throughout the English- speaking world for its connection to Christmas, in particular to the romantic custom of kissing underneath it. Read more...

Bluebell survey 2007

Bluebell survey 2007

by Angus ~ 24 April, 2007 ~ 5 comments

The Natural History Museum (in conjunction with the Ramblers’ Association and Plantlife) is again conducting a survey of Britain’s bluebell population. Our native bluebell is under threat due to breeding with a cultivated form. If you can help with the survey, visit the NHM website and record the details of the bluebells in your wood or garden online. Read more...

King Alfred's Cake

King Alfred’s Cake

by Angus ~ 29 March, 2007 ~ 26 comments

Walking through a woodland you will often see ash trees with black blobs on them, usually on dead branches or on branches that have fallen off the tree. This has several names including coal fungus or cramp balls or King Alfred's cakes.  These hard, semi-spherical black lumps are usually about 3-4 cm in diameter and are the fruiting bodies of a fungus, which decays the dead wood of the ash tree. The photo shows the inside of one of these pictured on a log in my back garden - not on an ash tree.

Legend has it that King Alfred,

Recording your Bluebells

Recording your Bluebells

by Chris ~ 9 May, 2006 ~ 3 comments

The onset of Spring brings a variety of blue flowered plants such a bluebells, hyacinths and squills in our gardens, parks and woodlands. The bluebell is ‘easily’ recognisable.  However, there are two or three different types of bluebells. The bluebell that is native to the UK has the Latin or Linnaean name of Hyacinthoides non scripta.

Its deep blue and scented flowers hang from an elegantly arching stem. It is found in abundance in many deciduous woodlands and hedgerows across the UK, though it is unusual or rare in parts of East Anglia and Scotland.  The Spanish bluebell (H. hispanica) is also to be found.

It is possible to distinguish between the two species – some of the differences are listed in the table below:



Common Bluebell Spanish Bluebell
Leaves are narrow by comparison to Spanish Bluebell, about half an inch or so wide Leaves broader, often an inch or more wide
The flowers at the top of the stem droop to one side The top of the stem is much more erect
The flowers hang from one side of the stem The flowers are arranged around the stem
The flowers are deep violet blue The flowers are a pale or mid blue, and white and pink ones are also found
The flowers have parallel or straight sides and have a narrow bell shape The flowers are more ‘open’ with a cone shaped bell
The tips of the petals roll back somewhat as though they ‘want’ to touch the tube of the flower Not such obvious curving
The pollen is a pale cream colour Pollen is a blue colour
Flowers are scented No scent detectable


The spanish bluebell can hybridise with the native bluebell, giving rise to types that have a mixture of the above characteristics.

The Natural History Museum is trying to map the distribution of these different bluebells and it is asking people to complete an online questionnaire about the bluebells in their gardens, local parks, hedgerows and woodlands.

If you can help, go to: http://www.nhm.ac.uk/nature-online/british-natural-history/survey-bluebells/recording/index.html

If you are interested in when plants flower, or when the first butterflies / birds are to be seen then visit http://www.phenology.org.uk/. You might like to become one of their recorders, sending details of events that you observe in your garden or woodland.

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